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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Lots of Fairtrade stalls and a goodbye

A very hectic few weeks with Fairtrade stalls at two local schools, West Heslerton and St Mary's in Malton, lots of pocket money priced toys and gifts for parents. Both schools excelled themselves and raised more in previous years, both for Fairtrade producers and in a small way for their own funds. We also had stalls at the local council offices and at a concert at Saville Street Methodist church, where over £100 worth of goods was sold in about half an hour. A lot of hard work, but in the end a success. Thanks again to Fairer World shop in York, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk/.

I said 'goodbye' to one of our National Park rangers, once at lunch after a hard morning's work at Hayburn Wyke, then a smarter occasion when the Voluntary Rangers had a 'posh' meal. Both sad, particularly so as it should never have happened. Maintenance of the footpath and bridleway network will inevitably suffer, so fewer people will visit the Park which will then mean less income for local small businesses etc, and so we go on.

On a cold, but sunny morning we 'dressed' the trees in Malton Castle Garden, www.maltoncastlegarden.org.uk . Local Brownie groups came along and using biodegradable coloured rice paper, kindly donated by our local Scoops shop, coloured and cut and made these lovely decorations. We agreed to do it again next year and one of the Guide leaders offered to do hot drinks, an excellent idea. The children had a wonderful time, running about in the open space and scuffling through the leaves.

I did my first 'run' taking food for the local food bank to the distribution centre; very timely as it was the week that the national press featured an important report on the dreadful fact that food banks are now a feature of life in almost every town in the country. I used my winter fuel allowance to add my own contribution, really this nonsense of pensioners being treated with kid gloves whilst younger people in work have all their benefits effectively cut, has to stop.ryedale.foodbank.org.uk/


building the frame of
the board walk
Coasties,  www.northyorkmoors.org.uk, seems to have been in the far north for several weeks, first building a board walk across an incredibly boggy area north of Scaling Dam, then repairing steps and cutting back gorse on the Cleveland Way www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cleveland-way, at Skinningrove.
the sun on pigeon lofts
 above Skinningrove



 
 


 Earlier in the month we
 had been in these magical woods at Hayburn Wyke (left).







This is the season for parties and volunteers are no exception. LASSN, lassn.org.uk, had theirs on a very wet evening in Leeds. However the atmosphere was cheerful as we shared a meal and exchanged tips and stories about our friends who are either seeking refuge or have gained the right to stay in this country.

So a happy end to this post, the last of 2014. I will share more thoughts with you next year.



 
 
 
 


Sunday, 30 November 2014

some additions to my small society

Before I come on to the item in the title I thought you might like to see the audience for a recent Coasties task www.northyorkmoors.org.uk. Whilst we cut back the trees encroaching on a bridleway next to their field they watched and watched and watched. They say cattle are curious, well these certainly were. It was earlier this month, when there were still some sunny days and I took this picture on the right on the way home. Not for the first time I thought how lucky I am to be able to volunteer in such a beautiful area. It seems to have been a month for bridleways, until last week when we had the most wonderful bonfire, working with the National Trust www.nationaltrust.org.uk at Ravenscar, alas I forgot my camera, so you will have to take my word for it.

The addition is a truly shocking fact, that here in a comparatively wealthy part of the country we have a food bank, ryedale.foodbank.org.uk. And no you can't just get a parcel if you feel like it, or don't want to go shopping. You have to fulfil strict criteria and then be referred by someone like a health visitor or a doctor. I am going to be helping by moving donated food from the collecting places to the 'warehouse' where it is checked for dates, sorted and packed into suitable packs for families, single people etc. I had a long chat with the organiser, whose dearest aim is not to have a job, but we both thought that, sadly, that might be a long term aim. I have slight issues with the fact, that, like most food banks, it is part of the Trussell Trust www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects, which is a Christian based organisation, but as they are happy to have Humanists like me involved I won't moan any more. What a disgrace it is that one of the richest countries in the world has reduced some of its citizens to having to rely on food parcels.

I had a good evening at the LASSN lassn.org.uk offices; after meeting my friend and once again spending time on the phone trying to sort out the endless saga of her fuel bill. I gave  up trying to understand when a helpful young man told me that, despite the bill showing an increased amount, actually she could now pay less each month. Later several of the volunteers had a useful hour discussing how we could meet up more often and share ideas and good practice. I have agreed to become a Trustee (if I am elected at the AGM), in the New Year, having said no committees when I retired, we shall see how long I last!

There have been several Fairtrade www.fairtrade.org.uk/ stalls since I last blogged. At this time of the year the crafts always sell well; people still surprised that Fairtrade now goes well beyond the original coffee, tea and chocolate. Our latest venture was at a craft fair in the Milton Rooms in Malton www.themiltonrooms.com/. A bigger picture than usual so you can see some of the crafts available. Tomorrow I will be taking some of these and other pocket money items to two local schools so that their pupils can buy presents for their families and help families in developing countries at the same time. Thank you to West Heslerton and St Mary's Malton. Trade is better than Aid. thanks to Fairer World in York for providing the goods www.fairerworldyork.co.uk/

A bit of a sad week ahead as Coasties says goodbye to one of our Rangers; a victim of the wholly unnecessary cuts that are decimating out public services for vindictive political reasons that have nothing to do with any sensible economic policies. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

the blog has returned

Why has the blog come back now? This beautiful wind turbine is on a farm between Ravenscar and Staintondale; yesterday there was hardly a breath of wind and yet it was turning and generating clean power for the farmer. So well done the farmer and well done to the National Park www.northyorkmoors.org.uk for giving it planning permission. I felt that the latest report on climate change meant that those of us who know that climate change is largely human made and support renewables needed to stand up and be counted. So as well as my reporting on the usual aspects of my small society I am now adding what I have done or seen to help in the struggle for increased renewable energy supplies. Just behind this farm is a small building which belongs to the Society of Friends www.quaker.org.uk, as well as its own wind turbine it also has a solar panel in the garden.

a recycled Fairtrade  reindeer
watches over Christmas gifts

fairly traded toys
Many of the farmers that Fairtrade, www.fairtrade.org.uk/, supports are at risk of  rising sea levels, others are at risk of the desert creeping closer; so our annual shop in Malton is important in both raising the profile of Fairtrade and increasing their sales. Over two days and despite dreadful weather we sold over £1600 worth of Fairtrade food, gifts and Christmas cards. Thank you to Fairer World www.fairerworldyork.co.uk/ in York for providing us with all the shop's stock.

This afternoon I took some Fairtrade food and Christmas items to a meeting of the local Sight Savers group, sightsupportryedale.org/, thank you to them for inviting me and buying so generously.

Tomorrow I am off to Leeds to see my 'leave to stay' friend and meet other volunteers at LASSN, lassn.org.uk/. Over tea and coffee we will catch up with new ideas and exchange helpful thoughts with other people also trying to support these very vulnerable, and at times wrongly maligned, small group of people living amongst us.

Coasties as usual on Wednesday, so now that the blog has returned you will be able to catch up with the cutting back and drain clearing next week.
 

Friday, 18 July 2014

au revoir, auf wiedersehn or arrivederci but not goodbye

Other languages have a word for something that says "I'll see you again", we only seem to have "Goodbye". It's not goodbye, but it might be a while.

Until now writing the Blog was fun, suddenly it seems a chore. Maybe it's the long summer evenings, so much nicer to be out doing things in the garden; but maybe it's the cracks showing even in my small society.

Not just the cuts, but now people in the National Park I have worked with for over five years being made redundant. Not because their job suddenly doesn't need doing, but because an ideologically driven Government hates anything that the public sector does. The nagging worry that my volunteering is replacing their paid work.

People today at my local Council not buying their usual small things at the twice yearly Fairtrade stall because it's so close to payday and yes I did believe them because whilst prices go up they are on a pay freeze.

My new asylum seeking friends prevented from doing the care work that they would willingly do that no-one else wants to do, because uniquely amongst people on benefits the Government thinks that they should sit at home and twiddle their thumbs. Meanwhile other claimants with extreme disabilities or life threatening illnesses are supposed to go out to work.

It is disheartening and maybe in the autumn I will come back to the Blog, we shall see.

In the meantime I will carry on doing my various stuff, I just won't be blogging about it.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Mostly on the Moors and some Fairtrade

In my last post in May I mentioned that I would be doing a voluntary ranger patrol in the Ravenscar area www.northyorkmoors.org.uk; well the bad news was a large amount of litter in a car park near the radio mast on the road to Stoupe Beck but the good news was several groups of enthusiastic young people doing a Duke of Edinburgh weekend walk. I chatted to them and their leaders, they were all enjoying it and were really keen to come back to the area again. Apart from the litter and a lot of muddy paths I had a lovely day in some warm sunshine.

the beach at Saltburn
Coasties has been to far flung places in June, twice out of the National Park, but doing repair work on the Cleveland Way for which the National Park is responsible. www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cleveland-way. First we were at Saltburn, step repair work in glorious sunshine. Then we were inland above Slapeworth quarry near Guisborough, one of the very first alum works after the secret of alum processing was 'stolen' from the Vatican early in the seventeenth century. Usually if it is the alum works we are by the coast at Ravenscar, but this was very different. However, here is a view of one of the old industrial buildings on the other side of the valley at Newgate Bank. www.teeswildlife.org/what-we-do/...to.../alum.../slapewath-works/. It was another hot day as we cleaned steps and cut back huge piles of gorse.
on the spot drainage


Earlier in the month we had been laying drains near Falling Foss, part of the Coast to Coast walk, it is an incredibly muddy area and these made on the spot drains will help to make the path a bit drier. They are very ingenious, two planks of wood held apart to make an open sort of gully. Here is one. It was a most unpleasant day, warm, damp and muddy, so despite every insect repellent known to human we were all plagued by midges and other biting insects. We finished early, enough was enough.

Last week our local Fairtrade group met to discuss plans for the next few months. It will be quiet as we are into the holidays. Just one stall in the next few months, but our website is making good progress and we discussed plans for next year's Food Festival and Folk Festival. Both were successes this year, but we have ideas on how to improve for next year.

Later this week I am off to Leeds to meet my new friends again, lassn.org.uk, more news on that next month.

I have had some feedback from my previous post about the threats to the footpaths and bridleways in the National Park, sadly mostly along the lines, that, somehow, like the tides it is all inevitable. Actually it isn't, but that is what the Government wants you to think and too many of us have  accepted that propaganda.

Monday, 16 June 2014

North York Moors footpaths and bridleways under threat

Only one item in this post. I have just emailed this to local MPs, press, ramblers etc. I don't suppose it will have any effect, but at least they can't say they didn't know.


For over 40 years the North York Moors National Park has managed the footpaths and bridleways on the Moors. There are over 2000 kilometres of these rights of way and a dedicated team of rangers, apprentices, field staff and hundreds of volunteers (probably thousands over the 40 years) has worked incredibly hard to maintain and improve them. Hedges have been cut back, steps built and cleaned, stiles, bridges and gates replaced and repaired, muddy areas drained and signing improved.

There has been a 2% improvement every year so that now there is a satisfaction rate by users of the paths of 96%.
Now all this is at risk. The Park only manages these paths on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council and it has decided that, because of the cuts imposed by the Government, it can no longer afford to do so. The Park has to put in its own money to maintain the paths at the level that visitors expect. It is very unlikely that the County Council, faced with its own budget restrictions, will be able to continue to maintain the paths at their current level. The agreement could end early next year.

Walking is the cheapest and most accessible way of exercising, an increasing need in our over weight society; it is also a help in cases of mild depression. Visitors to the Park, many of whom come to walk or cycle, bring hundreds of thousands of pounds into the area and support hundreds of local jobs.
The teams of volunteers who do much of the day to day maintenance give of their time willingly and with enthusiasm, I am one of them. But we are volunteers, we need the paid staff to lead us, provide the tools and other equipment and decide the priorities week after week. Most of us are retired, we are very happy to volunteer; we do not want the job of being responsible for what I have just outlined.

I am not criticising the National Park or even the County Council, but rather the Government whose short sighted cuts are going to cost more in the long term than they will save in the short term. As I have said they will affect people’s health, the local economy and put another nail in the coffin of what was laughingly called the Big Society. These cuts are not for any economic reason, they are driven by an ideological obsession with reducing anything done by public bodies.

Friday, 30 May 2014

a solitary llama and lots more

watched by a llama

Early in the month I was doing a voluntary ranger patrol near Saltergate on the North York Moors, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/, when I came across this beautiful animal, all on its own in a very large field. It gazed at me, posing for the photo, then went on grazing. Earlier I had heard my first cuckoo of the season. Alas, I had also had to ask large numbers of dog owners to put their dogs on a lead. One man whose dog was quite out of control told me that yes he had seen the notices that the Police have put up, about dogs being under control.....................obviously not his dog though! I am afraid that this will be the pattern for the summer; how I wish a farmer with a shotgun would appear, the lambs threatened by the dogs are their livelihood.

The next day we were able to see how other volunteers operate. We went on an evening guided walk round Georgian Leeds with the Leeds Civic Trust, www.leedscivictrust.org.uk/. The walk, led by a volunteer, was fascinating, hidden corners that even local people were surprised by, and then an excellent light meal, also done by volunteers. It was good to be on the 'receiving' end of some else's 'small society'.

lunch time view
Later in the month Coasties was in the beautiful woods at Littlebeck, we were repairing and cleaning steps and board walks. It is a very popular path as it forms part of the Coast to Coast walk, so it is important that we keep it in good condition. Lunch was sitting in the sun looking down at this lovely view of the stream. It was the first dry day for some time, much of the path was thick with mud, so we really appreciated the dry spot we found for our break.


outside the church


all our goodies
Another Fairtrade event, this time a stall in St Michael's Church, stmichaelsmalton.org.uk, to coincide with Malton's Fine Food Festival.maltonyorkshire.co.uk/food-lovers-festival-2/. The weather was wet, again, so we were glad to be indoors. We had a range of different Fairtrade food as well as the usual coffee, tea and chocolate. Chutneys, marmalades, cooking sauces, quinoa, peanut butter and plantain crisps to name but a few. Many of our customers were amazed at the range of Fairtrade goods now available. Thanks to Fairer World in York for once again providing us with the items to sell, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk/.

LASSN, lassn.org.uk/ has asked me to befriend a young couple, asylum seekers from east Africa; I meet then for the first time on Thursday, two lovely people whom I am sure it will be as easy to be friends with as my previous 'befriendee' was. She and I are now 'normal' friends, and even though she has leave to remain I still see her on a regular basis. Hopefully this might be the same with my new friends.

Tomorrow I am doing another voluntary ranger patrol, this time in the Ravenscar area, the forecast is good, so I should have an enjoyable day. More in the next blog.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

what happened to April?

Well I don't know, I was not well, we were away and getting on with my various activities seemed to take up all my energy. So May is here and I am posting at last.

So, in no very particular order. I have been a couple of times to Leeds, once to see my now given leave to stay and therefore no-longer-an-asylum-seeker friend and once to see two other friends. Both times, lots of chatting and laughing, however I also have to spend hours on the phone for my 'given leave to stay' friend. She only has a pay as you go phone and she needs to cancel a hospital appointment, (she is conscientious and won't just not turn up), and speak to her housing provider. It takes forty five minutes altogether for me to finally speak to someone, on my contract that costs nothing, but on pay as you go................! I am glad that LASSN, lassn.org.uk, has not yet found me a new person to befriend, this friend still needs loads of support.


there is a path under all this
We have had a variety of Coasties, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk, tasks. The usual of repairing steps and cutting back blackthorn along footpaths, but a couple of different jobs too. One sunny day we were clearing paths near Reasty Bank where logging operations had left them blocked with felled trees and branches. The ranger needed to power saw them first then we were able to hand saw them into smaller pieces and drag them off the path. It was hard work, but satisfying when we could walk along the whole path that we had cleared.

the new paving
As usual the last Wednesday of the month we were with National Trust, www.nationaltrust.org.uk, this month at Hayburn Wyke, repairing a path that was eroding into the stream. The woods were really beautiful, a faery glen. But the work was hard and potentially wet and muddy, getting flat stones out of the stream to lay on the muddiest part of the path and then covering them with sand and gravel, also from the stream bed, to bed them in and also make them less slippery when wet.




keeping dry.
One Sunday I did a Voluntary Ranger patrol in the damp in Rosedale, the weather meant that I saw very few people, but I cut back some shrubs obscuring foot path signs and had a chat to a farmer about thoughtless dog owners allowing their dogs to worry sheep. I also spotted this retired goat, keeping dry in a brand new coat.


Two dancers decide what to buy
Finally yesterday, after  a cold start the sun shone, and Morris and other traditional dancing groups kicked off the Malton and Norton Folk Festival www.maltonfolk.co.uk in grand style. Our local Fairtrade group, www.fairtrade.org.uk/ had a stall of snacks, chocolate and crafts next to the dancing area and we did a brisk trade. Then in the evening most of us took the stall to the concert at a local pub, a fine end to the day. Our takings were significantly up on last year, a bonus for the Fairtrade producers, Fairer World in York, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk and the Folk Festival who will get a share of the takings.

So now my small society is back again the public domain, it always was functioning, just not on the blog.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Daffodils, Fairtrade and hospital

Well I've been back for some weeks, but busy, busy, busy.

daffodils by the river
The daffodils are coming out at Farndale, so the National Park, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk, has a Mobile Display Unit at Low Mills, the bottom of the Dale, to help visitors enjoy the daffodils and give out information about other aspect of the National Park. Most days three Voluntary Rangers staff it; as well as being in the Unit to help visitors, we walk along the path, doing a bit of litter picking (there is very little) and closing the gates properly. Most of the gates have a latch and if these aren't clicked in place sheep can lean on the gate and hey presto they are in the next field! Unfortunately we also have to ask dog owners to keep their dogs on the lead, only a few thoughtless people, but one loose dog can do a lot of harm to lambs and ewes.

the hills above the dale
 Many of the visitors have been coming back year after year, but every year is different they say. About half the daffodils are out so far, I have one more day there, so hopefully they will all be out for my last visit. The wild garlic is also coming through, so soon there will be white as well as yellow flowers, and finally the bluebells. On my last walk along the river I hear the cry of a curlew, my day is complete.

Our local Fairtrade group has been busy filling in forms in order that we can renew our status as a Fairtrade town, www.fairtrade.org.uk/. Some of the cafes that were using Fairtrade products at our last renewal have closed, but we have other outlets to replace them. More shops are stocking Fairtrade goods, largely because so many big national firms are now making more of their products, like chocolate and sugar, Fairtrade. We look back over the last two years and are quite surprised as to how many different things our small group has been involved in, craft fairs, shops, chocolate tastings, stalls big and small, even a presence at our local Folk Festival. More farmers and their families in developing countries are able to have a better quality of life by their own efforts, not from hand-outs. Surely every one, what ever their political outlook must approve of that?

My friend in Leeds has been hospitalised whilst I was away, complications from a condition that is waiting to be operated on. I go over twice and on one occasion have to be a bit more forceful with staff than I would want to be. It works and she and I get the information that she needs, but why should I have to act like that?

Finally Coasties, www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cleveland-way,
cleaned and restoned
the view as we worked,
not bad
was steps again, this time at Boggle Hole. We cleaned them of grass and mud, put new stones from the beach on them and some of them had to be replaced completely. Towards the end I also got to cut some blackthorn back; it was my first week back after my holidays and I felt that I hadn't been away!


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Forge Valley board walk - job done

the board walk in the sun
I have blogged previously about 'cleaning' the board walk in Forge Valley. Well last Sunday the sun shone and I completed scraping the edges and trying to clear as much as possible of the detritus between the boards. After my comments earlier in the year about gaps between boards I have had a positive response from the 'powers that be', so I am hoping that new board walks will drain better and thus last longer. It was a lovely day and I had to take off my coat and woolly hat!

Earlier in the week Coasties, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/ , had got very cold and wet at Sandsend. We were repairing steps on the Cleveland Way and in a lovely circular walk off the Way through old quarries. However by 2pm it was not just raining, we can cope with that, but blowing a gale too, so tools away and home for a hot shower. Before the rain has really got going two of us had cut back a tall hedge of gorse that was blocking a lovely view point from a memorial bench. No photos though, by the time we had finished it was pouring with rain and my hands were far too cold to take photos.

Yesterday was my last week as a Coordinator for Short Stop, lassn.org.uk/‎ . I have been doing it for about two years and felt it was time for a break. Numbers are dropping as I have referred to in previous posts, and I am hoping to have a new person to befriend in the next couple of months. So if any of you lovely hosts are reading this it has been an honour to work with you.

No more posts for nearly a month, we are off on holiday (again you may well say). I cannot say too many times that that is why essential public services cannot be run by volunteers.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

same old stuff, but boring, never

The usual topics, but never the same every week. Short Stop, lassn.org.uk/,  is suddenly busy, three referrals, all from Iran. Does a regime there which looks to us in the west, a little more free, mean that it is easier for people to escape, or is it all an illusion? I manage to place them all, the first two with just one call each, the other takes longer, but finally I strike lucky. One host agonises over saying no, eventually I convince her that I will ring her back if there is any chance he will have to sleep on the street. I don't need to and all is well.

Wednesday is Coasties, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/,  it starts wet, but the drizzle soon eases, just as an easterly wind gets up and we are on the beach. The task is litter picking for the National Trust at Hayburn Wyke.
Hayburn Wyke waterfall
The usually quite placid waterfall is pouring over the edge and two of my colleagues cross the beck with great caution to collect all the large plastic containers that the recent high tides have thrown up. We pick up the usual dreadful detritus: bottles, cans, old rusting bolts, a large tyre, an old car seat and more polystyrene that can be imagined. Most of it has obviously come in from the sea, either dumped by shipping or dropped on another beach along the coast.
After a quick, cold lunch sitting on the huge boulders that pass for beach here, we do a bit more litter picking as the tide starts to come in.
look what we have here
Then we pile it into large dumpy bags and drag it up the hill to where a quad bike can tow the bags further up to the car park. We survey what we have collected with a mixture of horror and pride. There are still masses of tiny pieces of polystyrene on the beach and the ground at the top of the beach, it is almost impossible to pick up. Future archaeologists will call this time the polystyrene age, from the layer they will find fossilised on the beach!

On Monday I had gone over to Leeds on the bus, my friend had a break in recently and the council have fitted her a lovely security gate at the side of the house. Well it would be lovely if it hadn't been installed where any future intruders can hop over into her garden from next door over a one metre fence. She did ask them to move it back, but no that would be too sensible. I make various phone calls and arrange to ring her next week to check on progress. Her phone is pay as you go, and constant hanging on is costing her a fortune, mine is a contract and is much cheaper, but until she can get a credit history she has to continue with this huge expense.

come to the Fair
Every day I am busy emailing and phoning to sort out our local and Fairtrade Craft Fair, the posters have been done by a very talented new member of our group and the stalls are now finalised.
Unfortunately I am away for the Fair, so I am trying to sort it all well in advance.

I now just need to email one of our suppliers, Fairer World in York, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk about the things we would like for one of the stalls.

Tomorrow after Coasties I am off again, family this time, but I will be back in time for Short Stop next Tuesday.
 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

this time we lunch with a cormorant

Two weeks ago we lunched with the porpoises, this time it was just as sunny, but there was only a cormorant to keep us company. Rain had been forecast for the morning and there was a thick mist as I drove over the Moors, but once again the luck of the Coasties, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk, held and as we parked at Runswick Bay the sun came out. First we carried about fifty step boards and several packs of stubs (the short pieces of wood which hold the step board in place), up a muddy, slippery path for a job to be done in a few weeks time. We were out of the wind and I was soon shedding layers of clothes.

can you see the acorn, the
National Trail sign, pointing
up the beck?
the cormorant drying
its wings

Then we carried on along the beach to Hob Holes, where the Cleveland Way leaves the beach, along, or even in, the beck, up stone steps and then up the steps that needed cleaning and repairing. www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cleveland-way. It was hard work, scraping off the grass, mud and shale to try to get the steps back to their original width and also to give the wooden step boards a chance to dry out. Some needed replacing, a job I always leave to others. We sat on the edge of the beach for lunch, watching the cormorant drying its wings, and all the dog walkers enjoying the winter sun. Not a bad way to spend a winter Wednesday we all agreed.

The previous day had been another Short Stop, lassn.org.uk/, day, but once again no referrals. However the evening was very busy as we had a local Fairtrade group meeting to discuss our plans for Fairtrade Fortnight, foncho.fairtrade.org.uk. As well as the usual run of stalls we also have a banana producer visiting and we are organising another of our Fairtrade and local craft fairs. So the usual discussion about tables, posters and stalls. We seem to sort it all out and various tasks allocated out between ourselves. if you are nearby it is Saturday March 1st at the Friends' Meeting House in Malton, from 10am to 4pm, www.quaker.org.uk/malton.‎


On Friday it was the annual Fairer World, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk, social. All the volunteers and local stall promoters meet in York; we bring food, Charlie and Moira lay on wine, soft drinks, tea and coffee and we have a chance to meet some of the other volunteers. A lovely evening and an opportunity to chat with people I usually just meet in passing.

Yesterday in Manchester I visited a wonderful museum, www.phm.org.uk/, the Peoples' History Museum, which gives the history of how the rights we now take for granted have had to be struggled for over the centuries. Yes there are still changes we need to continue to push for, but this reminded me of how much has been achieved by people working together.

Tomorrow I am off to Leeds to meet my now settled friend. I haven't seen her since Christmas so a good chance to catch up, share some food and meet some of her other friends too.

 

Monday, 13 January 2014

lunching with the porpoises


the Cleveland Way climbing
the hill in the January sun
Well OK, we were sitting on a high cliff at Cloughton and the porpoises (about four) were in the sea beneath us, but still it was a lovely Coasties  www.northyorkmoors.org.uk lunch break. I know they weren't, but it really did look as though they were playing. It was the first Coasties of 2014 and we were doing a really big cut back of blackthorn along the sea ward side of the Cleveland Way. The weather for early January was perfect, sunny, not much wind and not too cold, by lunch time I had even taken off my thick fleece! A colleague and I had been asked to cut right through the hedge to open up a view of a headland as walkers climbed up the steps; "don't fall over," the Park Ranger asked us, we thought maybe we wouldn't.

the view and the barrier
Eventually we had cut through to the cliff edge and made the view asked for, but then it was decided that perhaps a barrier of some of the cut branches would avoid loosing walkers as they admired the view, so this is what it now looks like. If you read this and then walk this section, please do admire the view, it is lovely and it was hard work. I was too nervous to do the very edge bit, my colleague must have nerves of steel.

The previous day, in theory, was Short Stop, lassn.org.uk/, but there were no referrals at all. This always worries me, is there really no one destitute, do they all have friends they can stay with? Several of the referring agencies have had to close some of their drop in facilities, making it harder for destitute asylum seekers to access their help.

Today the person who organises LASSN's befriending scheme rings me, she is wondering whether my friend would help someone in a similar position to her, who has just moved to the same area of Leeds. I say that I am sure she would be delighted, what a lovely idea to go from being supported to being a befriender.

Last Saturday another Voluntary Ranger and I continued cleaning up the board walk in the Forge Valley. If the gap between the boards is not kept clear for water to drain away they will rot, as some of the boards already have. We discuss how far apart they ought to be for this drainage to happen, a lot have been put in almost touching, our hoes do not stand a chance. I even try with a penknife, hopeless. Later I email one of the senior people at the National Park, these boards are very expensive, if they can't be properly maintained it is money wasted. He replies in some agreement and says he will check the standards that are being used, a small triumph for we amateurs? I hope so. After all if volunteers are being used for essential maintenance then it is only right that we can and will have an opinion as to the original construction.

Finally to Fairtrade; last week I gave a talk to a group in Pickering, Sight Support Ryedale, sightsupportryedale.org/. We had a good discussion, the question of fairness for UK farmers came up, I said I agreed, but that was for another pressure group and we could only do so much. I sold a lot of chocolate and snacks and came home feeling that at least a few farmers in developing countries had had their case heard and supported. As usual thanks to Fairer World, www.fairerworldyork.co.uk, for supplying the goods.

I am off on my travels tomorrow, to Bath to stay with an old friend, so once again My Small Society is taking a rest, good thing it doesn't run really essential services.